Word Count: 800
This had to be the best yarn that eighteen-year-old Little Joe Cartwright had ever spun — at least in his opinion anyway. It had a lot of action, a lot of name-calling and an almost gunfight not to mention the part where he saved the beautiful actress from the ugly brute of a stage manager although he did leave out what happened between him and her after he saved her.
His Pa – Ben Cartwright – sat at his desk intently scribbling away on a piece of paper, not reacting at all to anything his youngest said. Occasionally he would pause in his work to consider something but his eyes never strayed from the paper.
Undaunted, Joe finished with a flourish. He described in great detail how the ugly brute of a stage manager came after him one last time, how he “triumphed over him using a right cross” and how he was “lucky to be alive” and adding emphatically, “It’s the gospel.” Joe then gave his Pa his most sincere look, hoping it would convince him of the veracity of his tale. It usually did but that was when his father was actually looking at him, of course.
Ben, however, continued to focus on whatever he was writing. A moment passed – a very long uncomfortable moment of silence when all that could be heard in the great room was the ticking of the clock, the crackling of the fire and the scratching of Ben’s pen.
Joe squirmed as he stood there waiting, studying his preoccupied parent. He finally sighed and turned to leave. “Well, I guess I’ll go…”
“Hold on a second,” Ben held up his left hand to stop his son while he continued to cross one last ‘t’ and dot one last ‘i.’ “Here you go,” he finally looked up at his son and handed him the piece of paper.
Oh-oh, Joe smiled weakly at his father who was now studying him. “What’s this?”
“That, young man, is a list of chores that I expect you to do to help pay for the damage you caused in town this evening saving your promiscuous actress friend from her ugly brute of a stage manager husband…”
“H-h-husband?” Joe turned a shade of green that matched his eyes.
“…who is not going to press charges but has promised to give whatever is left of you when I get done with you the thrashing of your life if he ever catches you with his wife again!” Ben roared getting to his feet.
“B-b-but, Pa,” Joe sputtered whipping off his hat and taking a step back. “She never said she was married…”
“Joseph…” Ben held up his hand once more to stop his son.
“B-b-but, Pa…how do you know about…?” Joe was really confused. “Are you omnipotent?” he looked at him critically.
Ben was a bit taken aback by his youngest’s use of the word. He recovered, folded his arms and fixed him with ‘the look.’ “You mean omniscient.”
“But how…?” Joe was still mystified that his father knew about his evening activities.
“Never mind how I know, young man. Just go to bed,” Ben sat down in his chair again but the ‘look’ was still on his face. “You’re going to need plenty of rest to finish that list and the next four I’m going to give you this week,” he picked up his pen that he left lying on the desk and pulled another sheet of paper out of the drawer.
“Yes, sir,” Joe gulped and he, the list in one hand and hat in the other, trudged wearily up the steps and around the corner to his room.
Ben ‘looked’ at Joe until he disappeared, shook his head and resumed his writing until Adam, his eldest son, set a tray holding three cups and a coffeepot down on the desk in front him and asked concernedly, “Did you talk to Joe about what happened in town tonight? That guy was really mad at him.”
“About five minutes ago,” Ben mumbled writing again. “He thinks I’m omnipotent.”
“But don’t you have three sons?” Hoss alias Eric, Ben’s middle son, a tray of sandwiches in his hands, joined his father and older brother.
“That’s impotent, not omnipotent,” Adam rolled his eyes heavenward.
“Would that I were,” Ben sighed and put down his pen.
“Which?” Adam raised his eyebrows quizzically.
“Both,” Ben smirked as he reached for the sandwich closest to him. It’s a tough job being a parent.